Dried sourdough starter is inexpensive and easily sent through the mail. Generally speaking, whoever sends you the dry starter will also send instructions telling you the best way to turn powder or flakes back into an active and useful moist colony of wild yeasts.
If you get your starter from me, I recommend two ways to rehydrate dried sourdough starter.
The first way is the fastest, but literally everyone who has done it this way makes the same mistake: they use all of the rehydrated sourdough starter in one loaf of bread.
Sourdough starter is a group of living organisms. Once the sourdough starter has formed a liquid colony, it takes at least a couple of weeks to fully develop it’s distinctive flavor. It may take a year or more for rehydrated sourdough to become fully acclimated to your environment. One “feeds” the sourdough colony equal amounts of water and flour once ever week – or more often if you make sourdough bread more than once a week. Every time you use 1/2 cup of starter to make bread, you “feed” the sourdough remaining in your jar or crock 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 cup of flour.
The first way … (All pictures in this section are courtesy of Sue Nowak.)
In a small bowl:
measure out 1 teaspoon of the dry starter — it doesn’t have to be packed, just the loose flakes are fine. It really doesn’t take much!
After the starter has softened a bit, half an hour later add 1/2 cup wheat flour (all purpose, whole grain, whatever, as long as it’s made from wheat.) and stir until smooth. You do want to make sure all of the flour is stirred in.
Cover it with plastic wrap so it won’t dry out, and let it sit on your counter for 48 hours.
After 24 hours Sue’s starter had a bit of a crust, and didn’t look like much.
Since Sue’s starter was nice and puffy, I told her to go ahead and add another 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup water, and stir it until smooth… The next morning she had beautiful bubbling sourdough, so she promptly made bread instead of putting the whole colony into a clean 2 quart crock, or clean jar, and “feeding” it ANOTHER 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of water…. I’m not picking on Sue here – literally everyone who rehydrated their dry sourdough this way did exactly the same thing.
Once the colony has formed in the bowl, the entire colony gets moved to a crock, and gets fed 1 cup of flour, and 1 cup of water, stir until smooth and put the crock into your refrigerator for a week. Then you can use some of the colony to bake sourdough bread!
Obviously I need to write some better instructions! So I thought about it for a while, and came up with another way to rehydrate dried sourdough starter.
The second way to Rehydrate Dried Sourdough starter
At this point real life interrupted, and I completely ignored this bag of sourdough starter for more than a week….